Honey Bees actually collect three substances; pollen water and propolis. This is an overview of pollen collection. Nectar is found in glands called ‘nectaries’ that are found various places on the flower. These places include the base, sepals, petals and stamens. As the bee digs deep into the flower looking for nectar some of the flowers pollen will rub off on the bee. Bees tend to visit one type of flower on any given foraging trip. Once the honey bee flies to a new flower to forage there is a possibility the stuck pollen from the previous flower will become unstuck and adhere to the new flower. What might seem like an accident from the bees perspective is actually what science would call ‘cross-pollination.’
The theory exists that bees and flowering plants co-evolved. Flowers that had the sweetest honey were visited by bees more often. In turn these flowers were cross-pollinated more and thrived in their environment. This relationship is what biologists call ‘plant-pollinator mutualism’. Both the flower and the honey bee benefit from the relationship. There are examples of mutualism’s that have become so specific that only one particular species of bee will only pollinate one species of flower. While fascinating, these mutalism’s are fragile. If one species dies, so will the other.
Flowers have been evolving slowly over the course of 80 million years and have developed many ways of attracting bees. These include: colorful petals, distinctive patterns a.k.a ‘honey guides’ & landing platforms. Many of the distinctive patterns bees see are in the ultraviolet range, making them undetectable with the human eye. Bees also evolved. Bees developed bristly bodies that collect pollen & wiry legs that are used to brush pollen from the bee’s abdomen. The nectar is swallowed and flown back to the hive. Once there the long process of converting nectar into honey begins.
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